Flanker’s departure big Waite off minds of international brigade proponents

HE’S a good bloke Martin Waite. To some he was solid, reliable, well-intentioned and a rugby man to the tips of his bootlaces. Others thought him a maverick, a free spirit, more subversive red than true blue.

Whatever your preference, the flanker always had a leaning towards those who think sideways rather than peering along the straight and narrow towards logical conclusions.

To his team-mates and large sections of the public, Waite epitomised the solidity and dependability of the club player. Loyal and proud of his heritage, Waite was the game’s equivalent of a card-carrying member of the SNP.

But at the end of last month, while most were transfixed on the build-up to the Six Nations Championship, Waite announced that he was walking away from the game. He had had enough of the shilly-shallying that now dominates the game’s upper echelons. The former Scotland A forward, whose condemnation of the "pseudo-Scots" he felt were diluting the game had captured people’s imaginations - but left him ostracised by Scotland’s selectors - had hung up his boots to concentrate on his career as a chartered surveyor.

He admitted that he felt betrayed, but accepted that the outcome was partly of his own making: "I was seen as a loose cannon after the remarks I made about foreigners. I felt then, as I do now, that there are far too many foreign players in Scotland. The opening of our doors has led to a huge influx of New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans, not all of whom are of the highest level.

"At the time, I received tremendous support from many of the current players, who felt that at last someone had spoken out and expressed the disquiet that we were all feeling. However, my decision to make my feelings known undoubtedly hindered my career at a higher level. Would I do it all over again, given the chance? Absolutely."

Waite acknowledges that the writing had been on the wall for some time. Almost 20 players who had escaped the purge of around 60 men by the Scottish Rugby Union when they merged the four district teams into two, found themselves redundant at the end of last season. Waite was among those players, discarded because he clearly didn’t fit into the plans of the Glasgow head coach Richie Dixon. Ironically, he lost his place to Gordon Simpson, a tenuously-qualified New Zealander, and Roland Reid, a South African.

Waite, who played more than 50 games for Glasgow, including five in the Heineken Cup, also revealed that he had been given medical advice on a recurring back injury in November, which had finally persuaded him to quit rugby for good.

Just 29, he now plans to focus his energies on life with his new wife, Gayle - they were married at the start of the season - and on returning to what he calls his "proper profession" in Edinburgh.

"I always kept my hand in with Barr Brady, who allowed me to work part-time, so it wasn’t as tough for me as some," he said. "But it was still very hard to take, to be told one day that you’re not wanted and that your career in rugby is over. I had the ability to play international rugby, but not the application. I didn’t have the X-factor.

"It’s remarkable how quickly your life changes as well. Instead of getting up around 9am to go to training and getting home in the afternoon, now I’m up at 7am, into a suit and not home before 6pm. Initially I had rugby training with Watsonians on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, which meant I didn’t see my wife much.

"The training reminded me that I was getting old. I had to take step back.

"Over Christmas I thought long and hard about quitting. It’s been quite a culture shock for both of us."

Scott Hastings, Watsonians’ director of rugby, described Waite’s retirement as a "loss of one of Scottish rugby’s characters", adding that he had asked the player to reconsider his decision to quit the club that he had joined from Glasgow.

"Martin no longer had the motivation. He was capable of the improbable," Hastings confirmed. "He’d try an audacious reverse pass. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t...That’s why he stood out."